I saw the face of the enemy;
it was ugly beyond belief.
One can be lost
in mournful contemplation
of one’s pain.
Sometimes, many times, we forget that what we are dealing with in this ‘struggle’ are very serious issues. Sometimes, I am too concerned by the various rivalries and jealousies between kuchus. Concerned with the gossip of who is sleeping with who, and the juiciest titbits from the rockiest relationships. They are titillating, these bits of detail. They are what makes us so human.
But they are also blinding to some of the things that can happen.
I am a gay Ugandan, and a kuchu. Sometimes I forget how risky that is. I do live in a very violent country. In a country that is decidedly homophobic and proud of it. But I do forget it. Familiarity, indeed, breeds contempt.
Yesterday, I did see the face of the enemy. And I was reminded of my mortality.
I don’t doubt that I am a pariah in the eyes of many Ugandans. Seeing Ssempa in person, in action brought it back to me. He is a handsome man. Charismatic. Presentable. Charming. I knew him from tv. I first noticed him when he was suavely telling a woman about the ‘Rainbow Coalition’. I had just entered, and did not know as yet what had happened.
When I realised that, when I heard his chuckle, His chuckle replete with malice, filled with his own self congratulation, I looked at him. I saw the guys that were talking with him, followed him, eavesdropping as he proceded towards the other gate of the enclosure, I suddenly knew the gift that I have in my own anonymity.
When I was in the midst of the crowd from Ssempa’s church, when they were egging the policemen on, to go on and beat up, and throw out the kuchus, I understood that only my anonymous cloak was covering me. These guys were violent, and they were not ashamed to be so. They felt justified in what they were doing. They had had the horrible ‘lesbians’ and homosexuals chucked out. They wanted them to be beaten up. Harmed. It was a shame that the policemen did not go ahead.
When I was looking for ‘official help’ and understood that I would not get it because the bureaucrats did not think my cause merited their help, I did realise that we are in this alone.
The girls and guys are brave to shade their anonymity. But the closet is a real protection. We become weary of it, and want to shed it. Yet it may be the difference between life and death for us. Life and death.
I am sure that, if it was not the fact that the People’s Space was supposed to be free, and that there was foreign and local press there, the kuchus who had dared show their faces to the world would have been roughed up. The crowd was wholly behind that action. They were disappointed that the police was constrained. That the police did not go ahead and beat up the kuchus as they had started doing. Gone was the guise that they were supposed to have a Christian love for the homosexual. They clearly wanted the kuchus hurt.
It is a struggle that is very real, in the blood and tears that can be shed. In the potential loss to life and limb.
I saw the face of the enemy, and I was afraid.